Apart from allowing sugar export, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday decided to lift a Regulatory Duty (RD) on export of potatoes after the commodity price has declined significantly in the country.

The ECC, which met under the chair of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, has taken up the proposal of Ministry of National Food Security and Research to lift RD on potatoes export. The ECC lifted the 25pc regulatory duty on the export of potato paving way for its export.

The federal government in May 2014 had imposed 25 percent regulatory duty on the export of potatoes on the recommendations of Ministry of National Food Security and Research when potato prices had soared to Rs 90 per kg.  However, the top economic decisions making body of the country, ECC, has now decided to lift the RD on the potatoes keeping in view the declining prices of the commodity in the country. The potatoes prices have currently come down to Rs 30 per kg from higher side of Rs 90 per kg. It is worth mentioning here that potatoes price had recorded unprecedented surge in last seven-eight months, which went to around Rs 80-90 per kg in different parts of the country. Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar several times told the media that potatoes price could go to Rs 120 to Rs 130 per kg if government did not take measures like imposing RD duty on exports of potatoes and not abolishing sales tax, Customs duty and withholding tax on the import of potatoes.

The ECC chair was informed that farmers had planted the crop on ten percent larger area this year and abundant yield was on the cards, surely creating a surplus. The decision would come into force w.e.f from 20th of December. The chair while allowing lifting of duty, with consensus of the house directed for formation of a committee comprising Secretary Commerce and Secretary National Food Security to closely monitor the market situation and keep the ECC updated regularly. “Interest of the local consumers is also to be kept in view”, Finance Minister remarked.

Meanwhile, sources informed that ECC has also allowed sugar millers to export sugar of 6,50,000 tones by May 31 2015. A delegation of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) led by its Chairman Iskandar Khan met Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar few days back and discussed with him issues of sugar industry. Sugar mills’ representatives also demanded further disposal of 1.25 million tones of sugar through export.

The ECC approved Ministry of Water and Power’s proposal regarding Modified Policy Framework for on-site private power projects based on interim gas supply with amendments as highlighted by Ministry of P&NR and FBR. The Federal Board of Revenue made it clear that no new SRO will be issued to facilitate the on-site power projects, however they may avail benefits under existing provisions. It was also agreed that to secure payment of gas supplies, sellers will provide a Bank Guarantee or standby letter of credit, equal to mutually agreed period’s payment of fuel component tariff, issued by a scheduled bank.

On a proposal moved by the Ministry of Water and Power, the ECC approved the proposed agreement between TPS Guddu (GENCO- II) and M/s Engro for use of 60MMCFD gas from Mari Shallow by M/s Engro till December 2015 in lieu of gas booster compressors to be installed by Engro for GENCO-II. On another proposal brought to the ECC by Ministry of W&P, the ECC approved public disclosure of “Pakistan Energy Sector Reform - Quarterly Progress Report of Development Policy Operations”. ADB, Asian Development Bank, JICA and WB supported GOP’s initiative and developed a sectoral reform programme through the Government of Pakistan. The plan covers tariff management, improvement of sectoral performance, incentivising private sector participation and improvement of accountability and transparency. The programme is spread over 5 years.

The first quarter review of the programme was presented to the ECC and the progress report was discussed in detail. ECC was informed that all tasks required under the programme in first year have been successfully completed. Earlier at the outset of the meeting, Secretary Cabinet informed that an Implementation Cell had been established at the Cabinet Division in line with the instructions of the Chair to ensure implementation of the decisions taken by the esteemed forum. The Finance Minister would be given an update on the implementation status at every ECC meeting, the Cabinet Secretary said.